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News of the Day ... In Perspective

08/28/2006

Canadian Medical Association elects supporter of private medicine as president

The election of Dr. Brian Day to head the Canadian Medical Association is viewed as demonstrating a tidal change in the attitude of the CMA, until now an unfailing supporter of the public system (Christopher Mason, New York Times 8/23/06).

Five years ago, it would have been impossible. And this year, instead of accepting the clear choice of British Columbia, whose turn it was in the rotating system to provide the president, rival Jack Burak, also of Vancouver, an unreserved supporter of nationalized medicine, forced a national election—a highly irregular move. The national vote became a referendum on the state system. And along with Dr. Burak, the state system lost.

Dr. Day began by supporting the state system himself. “But when you find your operating room time is cut from 22 hours a week progressively over the years to five hours a week, and you have 450 patients waiting for health care, you realize that something has to give” (Ted Byfield, WorldNetDaily.com 8/26/06).

Dr. Day operates Canada’s largest private hospital, and accepts private payment for medicare-covered procedures, in violation of Canadian law, according to the NY Times article.

“Opponents argue that a fee-charging private component would divert resources from public health and lead to a lack of access to medical treatment for many lower-income citizens,” writes Mason.

But, he adds, “with waiting times growing and costs skyrocketing, the merits of a larger private component to the health care system has not been the taboo topic it once was.”

While he does not advocate dismantling the public system, Dr. Day told the NY Times earlier this year that dogs could get a hip replacement in under a week, while humans waited 2 to 3 years: “In a free and democratic society, where you can spend money on gambling and alcohol and tobacco, the state has no business preventing us from spending our own money on health care” (Byfield, op. cit.)

Day’s election was the “second reversal inflicted on Medicare this summer,” Byfield notes. The first was the Supreme Court decision in the Chaoulli case.

Outgoing CMA president Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai said that “If we begin to put doctors’ interests ahead of patients’ interests, we will lose public trust” (ibid.).

Not long ago, Dr. Day publicly offered to take over the majority of surgeries of the local regional health board and perform them at 60% of present cost. The offer was angrily rejected as frivolous (ibid.).

Private clinics are opening at the rate of one per week in Canada, states Mason.

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